The SIPA Office of Alumni and Development is pleased to share A View from the Class, a SIPA stories series featuring current SIPA students.

Hi, I am Zulpha Styer, a second-year Master of Public Administration candidate, concentrating in Urban and Social Policy with a specialization in Management. This year, I’m excited to be participating in the International Fellows Program. I’m also a Global Public Policy Network Sustainable Development Goals Fellow and honored to be a recipient of the General Sir John Monash Foundation scholarship, Australia’s most prestigious scholarship for graduate study overseas.

What were you doing prior to attending SIPA?

I graduated from the University of New South Wales in Sydney in 2013 with a combined Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts in Politics and International Relations, and Development Studies. For almost six years, I served as a senior policy advisor to the Australian government at the federal and state levels, including as a legal officer on the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) team in the Australian Attorney-General’s Department and as a policy officer in CVE and indigenous policy with the Department of Premier and Cabinet. While working, I completed a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice and a Master of Laws with Merit from the Australian National University, and was admitted as a solicitor to the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. I was also appointed to the Multicultural NSW Regional Advisory Council for South West Sydney, advising the Minister for Multiculturalism on one of the state’s most culturally diverse areas.

Why did you choose SIPA?

I wanted a school with international credibility and renown without a college town experience. It was very important for me to continue to live in a city and be embedded in a community that was more than university students. I also valued SIPA’s much larger international cohort, and the opportunities for practical engagement through capstone projects and practitioner-led courses.

How has your experience at SIPA been so far?

My time at SIPA has been full of incredible experiences in the classroom, in New York City, and abroad. This past summer, I interned with Internews at their Regional Headquarters for Asia. Internews is an international non-profit that supports local communities to participate and make more informed decisions by producing, disseminating, and promoting high quality and trustworthy news. This internship was the fieldwork component of the Applied Peacebuilding and Conflict Resolution course I completed in the spring with Professor Zachary Metz. My specific role focused on projects on peaceful pluralism, religious freedom, and violent extremism in Asia, particularly in Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

What are you looking forward to studying this semester?

This semester, I’m the Teaching Assistant for Professor Horst Fischer’s International Law course, and I’m excited to also be taking a course through the law school which studies Post-9/11, the Trump Administration, and the Rights of Non-Citizens. I’m also excited about Professor Stephen Friedman’s The Art of Social Impact Campaigns course. With the help of Professor Friedman, my team is developing our own campaign on gender-based violence, and I’ll have the opportunity to explore issues I’m passionate about in my country of birth, South Africa.

How has SIPA affected your life?

First and foremost, my SIPA experiences have helped me to refine my personal values, articulate my concerns and hopes, and plan for my personal and professional future. I’ve also learned so much about U.S. politics and society, which I look forward to continuing to explore through the International Fellows Program. While I know I’ve barely scraped the surface, it has been invaluable to reflect on current events with professors with a wealth of knowledge and diverse perspectives, like Mayor Michael Nutter and Professor Christina Greer. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I’ve developed a strong network of inspiring classmates and generous mentors who will be life-long friends. I am deeply grateful for the community I have at SIPA and already saddened by the prospect of having to say farewell to some of them at the end of this academic year.

Is there a particular SIPA experience that stands out?

Professor Yumiko Shimabukuro’s Comparative Social Welfare Policy course was transformative. A phenomenally talented, dedicated, and thoughtful teacher, Professor Shimabukuro is invested in the success of her students. I’m looking forward to taking her Urban and Social Policy course in my final semester at SIPA, as she is exactly the teacher I need as I prepare to head back out into the world.

What are your plans after SIPA?

In the short-term, I hope to be involved in the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign, working for a candidate or on issue-based advocacy. Afterwards, I plan to spend time working in Cape Town or return to the Australian public sector, ideally working on social cohesion or violence prevention programs.